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Conversations with Stalin Paperback – Import


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace; First Edition edition (September 25, 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156225913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156225915
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #614,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Milovan Djilas (1911-1995), dissident Yugoslav Communist leader and writer, born in Polja, Montenegro. He studied law at the University of Belgrade, where he embraced Marxism, and was subsequently imprisoned for political activities. He became a good friend of Tito and by 1940 was a member of the Politburo of the Yugoslav Communist Party. Fighting with Tito's partisans during World War II, he held numerous high posts in the postwar government and was a leading supporter of Tito's break with the USSR in 1948. By 1953 he was vice president under Tito and widely believed to be his chosen successor. Djilas's criticism of Communist rule, however, led to his loss of all positions and his expulsion from the party in 1954. He was imprisoned in 1956. Upon publication in the West of his The New Class (1957), an exposé of the Communist hierarchy, his sentence was extended. His Conversations with Stalin (1962) cost him another four years in jail. Finally released in 1966, he continued to write and publish. Among his other books are Land Without Justice (1958), and Rise and Fall (1983; trans. 1985), an account of his own government career. The New Class was published in Yugoslavia in 1990.

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50 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Richard R on January 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Milovan Djilas was one of four senior members of Tito's government until his expulsion from the Yugoslav Communist party in 1954 and eventual imprisonment on political charges. He wrote "Conversations With Stalin" in 1961, between arrests. The book is a diary of Djilas' three voyages to Moscow in 1943, 44, and 48. Djilas, his memories no doubt leavened by hindsight, titles the three meetings "Raptures", "Doubts", and "Disappointments", and as these names indicate, the book chronicles his growing disillusionment with Soviet-led socialism.
Djilas was an educated man, a sophisticated thinker and a writer. So that when we read passages in the "Raptures" section such as, "My entire being quivered from the joyous anticipation of an imminent encounter with the Soviet Union", it seems clear that he was not the naïf that he makes himself out to be. Rather, given his circumstances at the time that he was writing, he was heightening the sense of his early fascination with all things Soviet so that his later disenchantment is all the more palpable.
The book fascinates with its detail. Djilas travels to Moscow as a foreign dignitary to discuss Yugoslav-Soviet policies. He must cool his heels for days before he is finally summoned to meet Stalin, and then the meetings are typically all night dinners with copious drinking and byzantine political subtext to the conversation. Stalin dominates the discussion so thoroughly that when he insists that the Netherlands was not a member of the Benelux union, nobody dares correct him. Djilas recognizes traits of greatness in Stalin, his ruthlessness and far-sightedness.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on October 9, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What happens when a young idealist has to deal with the Soviet system in his relations as a foreign representative. Djilas was a Yugoslav guerrilla who was chosen as a representative to the Soviet Union. In this series of meetings over a period of six years, his idealism is washed away and he becomes more pragmatic on the Communist system. Not only does he see Stalin for what he is, but he becomes cynical of the whole system.

This is an interesting and quick read. One understands why Yugoslavia broke away from the Soviet orbit. It also shows Yugoslavia wanting to make Albania a part of its country. We now know what that would have caused. This shows an interesting perspective on the different perspectives each East European Communist government had. This book is slighty dated.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Acute Observer on June 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Foreword says that human memory rids itself of the superfluous and retains only the important, as based on later events. It adjusts past reality to fit present needs and future hopes. MD says human relationships are more important than dry facts. He used his personal experiences to describe Stalin's enigmatic personality. How many others knew Stalin as an ally, became an enemy, and lived to write about it?
Wartime events led to misunderstandings with Moscow; they didn't realize that the resistance to the German and Italian invasion and occupation went on together with a domestic revolution. The latter caused friction with Great Britain (p.8). Moscow did not comprehend the fact that the Yugoslav Partisans grew into a regular army; Russian partisans were an auxiliary to their army. Tito's policy was to first look after their army and people, as in arranging an exchange of prisoners (p.10). The next was to form a new provisional government. While acting in their own interests, they followed the lead of Moscow (p.11). Djilas says their idolatry of Stalin resulted in an irrational acceptance of "unpleasant facts" (p.12). Djilas noted that Stalin's style was colorless, meager, and a jumble of vulgar journalism and the Bible (an ex-seminarian). Perhaps their hero worship was due to their need for a hero in their struggle against foreign and domestic enemies? Stalin's prediction of war's end in 1942 may have been a threat of a separate peace if no Second Front occurred.
In 1944 a delegation was sent to Moscow (p.13). It had a balanced ticket: General Terzich, Party leader Djilas, a financial expert, atomic physicist Savich, a sculptor.Djilas had never been to Russia and was not tainted with any "factional or deviationist past". They hoped to be recognized as the provisional legal government.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eduardo Veiga on October 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Djilas' first hand account of events, keen observations and great writing style combine to give you much more insight about communism and Stalin than you would expect from a book this size. Don't miss it.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By RBI on February 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A SUPERB BOOK BY A MAN WHO WAS AN INSIDER AND CAME TO REALIZE, ALMOST TOO LATE, THE HORROR OF SOVIET COMMUNISM, EXEMPLIFIED BY STALIN. ONE CRITIC CALLED IT A CHARACTER ASSASSINATION, WHICH IS BEYOND RIDICULOUS. JOSEPH STALIN WAS PROBABLY THE GREATEST CRIMINAL OF THE 20TH CENTURY, A PURELY EVIL PSYCHOPATH WHO COULD HAVE CARED LESS ABOUT THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE. HIS ONLY CONCERN ABOUT WW II WAS THAT HE ALMOST LOST. NO, THIS IS JUST AN EXCELLENT CLOSEUP OF EVIL, DO READ IT.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on October 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Milovan Djilas was a leading member of the Yugoslav Communist Party until he had a fall out with Tito and became a dissident. This book, however, is about earlier events.

As a high ranking Communist, Djilas visited the Soviet Union several times, conversing with Stalin in person. Their relations went from amicable to strained, due in large part to the deteriorating relations between Moscow and Yugoslavia. In 1948, Yugoslavia became the first Communist nation to break all ties with the Soviet Union.

Djilas book is titled "Conversations with Stalin", and does indeed concentrate on the actual meetings he and other Yugoslav leaders had with Stalin. Other Soviet leaders are also mentioned: Molotov, Malenkov, Khrushchev and the despicable Beria. The Bulgarian Communist leader Dimitrov plays a supporting role.

While the book does contain political reflections, its primary interest lies in the author's impressions of Stalin as a person. Somewhat surprisingly, Djilas reveals relatively little sensational information. The only time Stalin shows his true colours is when he defends Soviet soldiers who rape women and plunder civilians. Otherwise Stalin comes across as an energetic, domineering and realistic politician, with a somewhat cynical sense of humour. Of course, he expects the East European satellites to tow the Soviet line, refers to the Soviet Union as "Russia" and has a big problem with Jews. Interestingly, Stalin often took positions to the "right" of the Yugoslav Communists, fearing that they were introducing socialism too quickly in the liberated areas, and insisting on a compromise with the monarchists.
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